Finding stuff stuck up on my front door is nothing unusual; at least once a month local restaurants and pizza places plaster the neighborhood with coupons in the hopes of luring some of us jaded suburbanites out of our kitchens. And once a month, the owner of this little "planned community" sends out the usual platitudinous drivel.

Then there was this nasty little flyer that reproduced an ad from the nearest daily newspaper, offering rental units in this complex, and carrying the presumably frightening words "SECTION 8 WELCOME".

For the uninitiated, Section 8 is the federal rental-assistance plan; generally, it specifies that the tenant pay somewhere around 30 percent of gross income in rent, and the government will pick up the tab for the balance. Many of these tenants wind up in public housing, but since the general perception is that public-housing projects are fairly horrid — I lived in such a place in South Carolina for a short time during the early Sixties, and about the only thing it had going for it was that the segregationists in charge of the housing authority at the time made sure that it was marginally better than the next-block-over blacks-only project, which, just to hammer the point home, was named for one of the state's more vociferous racists — Section 8 also allows the issuance of rent vouchers, which can be presented to participating property owners in the private sector. The owner of this property had apparently decided to participate.

Did I mention racists? The anonymous author of the flyer, despite his attempts to avoid any blatant smears, managed to come off quite a bit worse than, say, your average defender of the erstwhile Confederate battle flag. (For the record, I do think the flag is a legitimate Southern icon, although in South Carolina, at least, its iconic status might seem a tad less dubious had they started flying it before 1962, the year after I moved out of their PJs.) He complained that "Not only is section 8 living here, but just wait until the summer; ALL of their friends will be living at the pools, the gym, and especially the basketball court. Just wait and see." Um, "especially the basketball court"? Well, as Hollywood teaches us, white men can't jump, so it's pretty obvious this character isn't worried a whole lot about immigrants from Eastern Europe.

He is definitely worried, though: "We need to take our home back. We need to keep safety here. When section 8 come in [sic]; it's going to be so hard to get them out of this place. We don't need people braking [sic] into our cars, our homes, and our lives."

And he didn't ask me, but I can answer anyway: I've lived in this little hideaway for thirteen of the last twenty years, through six different owners and dozens of changes. Some of the owners would accept Section 8 tenants; some would not. In 1982, when I first ventured over here, the racial mix hereabouts was about half white, half black. It's maybe 40-60 today — not that big a change. The crime rate has scarcely budged. (I had a license plate stolen off my car in 1994, the only incident that has befallen me. Total damage: $11.) I asked the local manager if the flyer had had any impact; she said it hadn't, and I haven't seen any more moves, in or out, than usual. Maybe we're gradually coming to our senses about this sort of thing — some of us, anyway.

The Vent

#192
9 April 2000

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